Budget 2011–12: Australian War Memorial funding
The 2011–12 Budget allocates a total of $48.154 million to the Australian War Memorial (AWM), comprising both appropriations and equity injections. This represents an increase of about $10 million compared to funding allocated in the 2010–11 Budget.
During Senate Estimates hearings on 19 October 2010, the AWM’s Director, Major General (retired) Steve Gower, confirmed that the AWM’s Council had considered, although quickly rejected, closing the Memorial for one day a week in an effort to save money.
Not long after this hearing the Prime Minister Julia Gillard ordered a review into the Memorial’s funding arrangements. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, said at the time:
We are going to be looking at the memorial's finances in quite some detail as a result of a directive from the Prime Minister.
In December 2010 a redacted copy of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs incoming Government brief (the ‘Red Book’) was released, which made the following statements on the state of the AWM’s budget:
As Government appropriation for operational expenses has decreased the Memorial has sought to offset the impact by increasing its non-government sources of revenue. This has been successful but is becoming increasingly difficult given the current economic environment.
The Memorial is facing potentially constraining, if not crippling, financial circumstances.
In the context of the 2009-10 Budget, a NPP [new policy proposal] was submitted, seeking an increase of $5m p.a. to the base operational funding. This was not supported and the resulting budget was balanced through further reductions in programs and staffing.
What can only be considered as draconian measures will now be introduced from 2011, including closing the Memorial (excepting the Commemorative Area) one day a week and closing the Research Centre on weekends, severely limiting public access to this preeminent national institution.
In response to the public release of this information, the media began reporting on the budgetary pressures faced by the AWM and the potential adverse effects on staff numbers and preparations for the Centenary of Anzac in 2015.
Subsequently, the Opposition urged the Government to increase funding for the AWM. Following its review of the AWM’s finances, on 3 March 2011 the Government announced a funding increase for the AWM of $8 million per year for four years, and a one-off payment of $1.7 million to assist with the redevelopment of the First World War galleries in preparation for the Centenary of Anzac in 2015.
The extra funding announced in March 2011 is reflected in Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2011–12 which records the additional funding for the AWM as a new measure. It states that an additional $33.9 million will be provided over the forward estimates period, at an average of $8.5 million per year. On the intended use of this money, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 note:
The announcement of a recent Measure to increase Appropriation will fund additional resourcing needed to not only deliver core programs, but also address the expected increase in demand on Memorial resources in the lead up to, and during the First World War centenaries 2014-2018, and ongoing interest thereafter.
The $1.7 million ‘one-off payment’ to the AWM is included in this year’s Budget as a capital measure and will be used to ‘commence planning’ for a new First World War gallery, which is expected to be completed in ‘late 2014’.
Following the release of the 2011–12 Budget, the Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, remained critical of the Government’s funding measures for the AWM, stating:
Labor has failed to commit any funding for commemoration for the ANZAC Centenary.
The Coalition is disappointed that only $1.7 million of the $25 million required has been committed to the redevelopment of the World War One galleries at the Australian War Memorial.
The chart below demonstrates the changes in budgeted Government appropriations to the AWM from 2003–04 to forward estimates 2014–15. The chart shows a dramatic rise in funding between 2006–07 and 2008–09—resulting from an increase in equity injections to finance the redevelopment of the AWM’s eastern precinct—and a decrease in appropriations between 2008–09 and 2010–11.
Table 1: Budgeted total annual appropriations to the Australian War Memorial: 2003–04 to 2014–15 (current prices)